Johor Bahru, Sep 27: I-League champions Bengaluru FC will face a stern test when they take on reigning champions Johor Darul Tazim in the first leg of the AFC Cup Cup semi-final here on Wednesday.
Bengaluru will be up against a dominant side that only last week claimed their third Malaysian League title in a row, a feat they achieved without losing a game, according to a release.
Kick-off: 6:00 PM (IST)
Venue: Tan Sri Dato Haji Hassan Yunos Stadium
The match will be telecasted live on Star Sports 2/2HD
Earlier in the season, the Malaysian team won the Football Association Cup and the Charity Shield to make it three trophies in 2016 for the Mario Gomez-coached side.
"We know everything about the opponent. They deserve to be here and are a very strong rival. We are not scared about that. For us, it's a nice challenge and the aim is to put on a performance," said Roca while addressing the press on Tuesday
This season the two sides have been drawn against each other in the group stage, with Johor winning both the home and away matches to finish top of the table while Bengaluru qualified to the knock-out stages by finishing second.
"Yes, we haven't beaten Johor yet but we've had two very close games and we can take positives from that. We are a stronger team now than when we last played them. We have a new coach, new systems, a few new players and it's all coming together. We go into every game wanting to score and win and tomorrow will be no different," said defender John Johnson.
Having progressed after playing out a 0-0 draw (1-0 aggregate) against Tampines Rovers in Singapore last week, Bengaluru will still be without Udanta Singh, Lalchhuanmawia and Keegan Pereira for injury and illness issues.
"We do have a few injuries and unfortunately, those players cannot participate. But that is not an excuse as we have a good squad and we have to prove it tomorrow," said Roca.
The semi-final will be only Roca's third competitive game since taking charge but he was confident of the way the team has been responding to the change.
"We have tried to create a new philosophy and our team is improving. We are inching closer to the way we want to play. We know our limits, but we know we cannot sleep and we have to keep progressing as a team."
Johor Darul Ta'zim
Goalkeeper: Mohd Izham Tarmizi
Defenders: Mohd Aidil Zafuan, Marcos António, Muhammad Fazly, H. Harun
Midfielders: Mohd Safiq, Kunanlan, Mohd Azammuddin, J. Pereyra Díaz
Strikers: J. Lucero, Mohd Azinee
Defenders: Rino Anto, Juanan, John Johnson, Nishu Kumar
Midfielders: Alwyn George, Cameron Watson, Alavaro Rubio. Eugeneson Lyngdoh
Strikers: Sunil Chhetri, CK Vineeth